Recruitment marketing companies and specialists have plenty of advice about how to entice the best and brightest teachers to your school.
With the current recruitment crisis, however, it makes sense to keep hold of the teachers you’ve got. But just how exactly can schools retain the top talent?
#1 Provide excellent induction
Excellent communication, before, during and after the interview process, puts new staff at ease.
Once a job offer has been accepted, a series of emails should address all their concerns and queries. The tone should be warm and welcoming. The head of the department may suggest meeting up before the term starts, ensuring new members of staff feel appreciated and looked after. This is vital especially if your new starter is new to the area.
Highly effective schools have an organised, timetabled induction programme. It may begin with a barbecue on the school grounds or at the Headteacher’s home, followed by regular meetings dealing with everything new staff need to know: how photocopiers work, where to get stationery, school safeguarding and sanctions policies.
#2 Hire the best possible support staff
All this is helped along with the assistance of excellent support staff. Much is delegated to support staff, who oil the wheels of schools and academies across the land. They are key support in the process and can help with the transition from candidate to employee.
#3 Operate a buddy system
Highly effective schools match up joining staff with teachers outside their department.
That way new staff don’t start to feel they’re asking the same people the same questions over and over. Furthermore, they can raise any early concerns without compromising their relationship with their line manager or closest colleagues.
The buddy is there to offer gentle guidance and a confidential ear. Those quiet words of advice and encouragement, early on, are invaluable. New members of staff are susceptible to culture shock. Everything is so new. It can be overwhelming.
#4 Offer safe, supportive environments
Teachers don’t so much want to join schools as join communities. Culture matters. Teachers are reluctant to leave schools where they feel their efforts are recognised and appreciated.
In many schools, socials, fundraisers, five-a-sides and other sporting pursuits provide the glue that keeps teams together, allowing staff to let off steam while forging genuine friendships.
We also must mention that during the current COVID-19 crisis, you need to make sure you’re offering a supportive arm out to all your employees. Times like these can affect mental health more than we all realise, so make sure you have a clear process for checking in regularly with staff and that they know to ask for help.
#5 Nurture younger members of staff, and those new to the profession
Teachers are most likely to leave in the early years of their career compared with other professions. They need special care and attention and, in some cases, early intervention to prevent burnout. Encouragement from experienced teachers will see them over the early hurdles. Seasoned practitioners know that it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
#6 Provide excellent mentoring within departments
A good mentor with a ‘you can do it approach’ will show the way with all the usual issues, including classroom management, admin and email, parents and parents’ evenings, occasional moments of self-doubt, and more besides.
#7 Provide peer-to-peer training
Teachers stay in schools where teachers get on. Sharing interests, enthusiasms, approaches and best practice cement relationships and create great teachers.
The best teachers leap at the chance to team-teach and hone their craft.
#8 Trust teachers
Team teaching reduces the need for lesson observations, and fewer observations means less stress for all involved before, during and after the process.
Some schools have now removed performance-related pay, favouring automatic pay progression. Teachers once more feel trusted and freed up to concentrate on pupils rather than paper-filling exercises.
#9 Tackle workload
Fact is, many teachers leave teaching in order to win back evenings and weekends lost to admin and marking. A quarter of teachers in England work more than 60 hours a week.
Intricate mandatory marking policies, though well-intentioned, create unnecessary stress and strain on teachers, and aren’t always sustainable in the long run.
Teachers in successful schools share the load and share resources, while leadership teams allow teachers greater autonomy.
Some schools are making good ground with live marking, where work is assessed with the pupil, ensuring the teacher’s comments are both read and understood. Spoken feedback is proving more practicable and more impactful, and has won the praise of Ofsted in some school inspections. Some schools are experimenting with voice recorded feedback or QR codes attached to the pupils’ work.
#10 Believe in CPD
In the best schools, annual reviews are two-way. They give ambitious teachers the chance to develop inside and outside the classroom and the curriculum.
#11 Offer strong leadership
Last but by no means least, all the above is underpinned by the courage, compassion and common sense of school leaders. Those with experience who lead with wit and wisdom. Those who look out for their staff. Those who know not to bombard their staff with every new initiative, who manage through consensus, welcoming input from all members of staff.
Retaining top teaching talent isn’t easy but it’s something you really need to focus on and do well.